Updated: July 28, 2012 6:02AM
Berries are among the nation’s most well-liked fruits. They have origins in both Europe and here in the United States. The Native Americans were the first to incorporate berries into their diets and lifestyle. Today, berries are appreciated worldwide.
Berries signify summer and rightfully so, as the warmer months are the peak harvest for these fruits. Berries have traditionally included blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries
Berries vary from 50 to 100 calories per serving if eaten raw. They are brimming with vitamin C, potassium and fiber.
In general, berries should be dry, firm, well shaped and eaten within a week after purchase. If you can’t eat them that soon, remember that berries freeze well! It’s best to buy berries that are in-season as they’ll cost less and are more ripe and flavorful than out-of-season berries.
Stay away from containers of berries with juice stains, which may be a sign that the berries are crushed and possibly moldy. Soft, watery fruit means the berries are overripe. Dehydrated, wrinkled fruit means the berries have been stored too long.
Select blueberries that are firm, dry, plump and smooth-skinned. Berries should be deep-purple blue to blue-black; reddish berries aren’t ripe but can be used in cooking.
Select raspberries and blackberries that are unblemished dry, in an unstained container. Raspberries should be medium to bright red, depending on the variety. Blackberries should be shiny and black — avoid those that are dull or reddish.
Moisture will increase spoilage, so the berries themselves should be relatively dry. Shelf life for raspberries and blackberries is short, and they should be consumed within two to three days of purchase. Eat at room temperature for fullest flavor.
After purchasing berries, check the fruit and toss out any moldy or deformed berries. Immediately eat the overripe berries within 24 hours. Return the other berries back to the original container or they should be arranged unwashed in a shallow pan lined with paper towels, and washed just prior to use. The berries may be topped with a paper towel to absorb any additional moisture. Plastic wrap the entire container. This will ensure the fruit retains its freshness, but generally berries should be eaten within one week.
Berry Helpful Hints
• Blueberries tend to change color during cooking. Acids, like lemon juice and vinegar, make the blue in blueberries turn red. In an alkaline environment, such as a batter with too much baking soda, the blueberries may turn greenish-blue.
• To reduce the amount of color streaking, stir blueberries (right from the freezer, if frozen) into cake or muffin batter last.
• When making pancakes and waffles, add the blueberries as soon as the batter has been poured on the griddle or waffle iron. This will make the pancakes prettier and they’ll be easier to flip. If frozen blueberries are used, cooking time may have to be increased to be sure the berries are heated through.
• A 12-ounce bag of whole frozen raspberries is equal to about 3 cups frozen berries.
• A 16-ounce bag of whole frozen blackberries is equal to about 3 cups frozen berries.
• Whole frozen berries destined for baked goods should be used frozen. Gently fold into pies, cakes and muffins just prior to use.
No-Crust Strawberry Pie
Each serving equals 1/2 cup of fruit or vegetables
3 cups fresh strawberries
1 (2.1-ounce) package sugar-free cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
1 (.6-ounce) package sugar-free strawberry-flavored gelatin
2 cups water
Rinse and hull strawberries. Distribute evenly in a 10-inch pie pan. In a medium saucepan combine pudding mix, gelatin mix and water. Stir well and bring to a full boil. Pour mixture over strawberries and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Top with light or low-fat frozen whipped topping prior to serving, if desired.